Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Oregon Coast Beach Warnings Lifted After 24 Hours
(Oregon Coast) - The coast is clear again. After only a day of health advisories for three beaches along the Oregon coast, state officials have removed the warnings. But some looming problems remain for one coastal town’s beaches.
Sunset Bay State Park Beach on the southern coast, the D River Wayside in Lincoln City, and Nye Beach in Newport were all hit with warnings to stay out of the water this week. They were all lifted by Thursday.
The health advisory for contact with marine water at Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon, was lifted Friday by the Oregon Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The advisory was issued Thursday after a recent overflow of treated sewage.
Terry Obteshka, owner of Grand Victorian B&B in Nye Beach, said the recurring problem of sewage has been coming out of the big pipe underneath the Turnaround at Nye Beach. It's the outflow of Nye Creek, where some of the town's storm drain system is diverted into. But something else was making its way into the storm drain system.
Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in ocean waters can come from both shore and inland sources, including storm water runoff. Subsequent monitoring of this area showed the waters did not pose a higher-than-normal risk.
State officials encourage recreational activities at all Oregon beaches, suggesting only that water contact be avoided when advisories are in effect.
Health advisories for contact with marine water at D River State Park Beach in Lincoln County and at Sunset Bay State Park Beach in Coos County were also lifted Thursday.
The advisories were issued Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, after water samples at D River State Park Beach and Sunset Bay State Park Beach showed higher-than-normal levels of enterococcus, a type of fecal bacteria, in the marine water. Subsequent testing showed the contamination had subsided and the waters did not pose a higher-than-normal risk associated with water-contact activities.
Since 2003 state officials have used a federal Environmental Protection Agency grant to monitor popular Oregon beaches and make timely reports to the public about elevated levels of fecal bacteria. State agencies participating in this program are the Oregon Department of Human Services State Public Health Division, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. More detailed test results are available at www.healthoregon.org/beach.
Nye Beach and Agate Beach have popped up numerous times in the last year or two in these warnings from the state, and Obteshka and a large chunk of Newport residents have become increasingly concerned. One problem is that people in general ignore these warnings, or they don’t notice them, even though they are posted prominently at the beach accesses at the Turnaround or at Agate Beach.
"It’s kind of scary," Obteshka said. "Because you’ll see babies in diapers playing around the water. It turns out these fecal bacteria live longer in the sand than they do in the water. And that’s scary, considering so many kids are in the water, because they don’t know any better. And of course what’s the first thing they do? They make sandcastles."
Obteshka and others have hounded the city about the problem over the last year, and recently it was discovered some newer homes further inland were not attached properly to the city’s sewer system. Obteshka said somehow the waste was making its way into the storm drain system rather than the usual routes, and then spilling out onto the beach via Nye Creek.
“Some sewer lines are also leaking,” Obteshka said. “While most of the coast is way down on these bacterial warnings, Nye Beach and Agate Beach were way up. Something was wrong.”
Those numbers have improved, and the red flags are starting to go down for the Newport area once officials discovered some of the problem homes and the leaking spots. Obteshka said they’ve been using smoke to detect the holes in the system, and have encountered some interesting breaks.
“They found some breaks in the sewage lines up the skate park,” Obteshka said. “Smoke was coming out of the ground up there.” The skate park is located at the northern end of Nye Beach, about 200 feet from the cliffs overlooking the sand.
One catch here is that state officials don’t always know if the fecal bacteria they’re finding is from humans or simply runoff from streams inland where animals are doing their business. Even seabirds can cause a sudden uptick in certain bacteria. There are DNA tests that can be done on these samples to determine if it’s animal or human, but these are costly and can’t be done quickly. Also, Obteshka said there’s no point in doing these for Nye Beach until the known problems are resolved.
He said there have been too many instances of fecal bacteria on Newport beaches to not be from a human source, although many of these warnings around the coast come from natural sources.
“These samplings are just a moment in time,” Obteshka said. “It takes about 24 hours to get results back, and things could’ve gotten better in that time, or they could’ve gotten worse.”
The other catch is there haven’t been any reports of beachgoers getting sick on the coast – although the Columbia River is dealing with a possible illness in the Gorge area. As Obteshka noted, the warning are largely ignored or unseen by those playing in the surf.
“The EPA has adopted these standards for testing, although it doesn’t mean there are pathogens carried by these bacteria,” Obteshka said. “But it could be in there. There is a higher risk of exposure to something, to maybe getting sick.”
Obteshka said some hoteliers and other business people are telling their customers about the warnings.
In the end, nobody is suggesting stay away from the ocean in general. Keep your eye on the signs posted at each beach access. If there are warnings there, then perhaps play in the surf a mile down the road.
Staggeringly Cool Ideas for Oregon Coast Romance Be it the season of Valentine's or be it any time of the year, Oregon's coastline has essentially cornered the market for cuddle-inducing possibilities and gushy activities for the hand-holding set
Day or Night Mysteries and Merriment on Oregon Coast It's more than just nightlife that comes to life, but the beaches offer major opportunities